Super Rugby enters Round 16 this weekend. Six of this week’s seven fixtures are expected to be one-sided, with only one fixture providing more than 1.50 odds on the favourite. Last week was a great round for this column, with every pick winning, three of which were at 2.00 odds. Alongside my own opinions I have included the winner predictions of 15 ‘experts’ from Rugby Heaven in Australia and TVNZ in New Zealand. Below are the Luxbet odds for this weekend’s fixtures (subject to change).
Each team’s points tally is provided in brackets.
Friday – June 3
Highlanders (44) vs. Force (28)
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 9 for Highlanders, 6 for Force
The Highlanders suffered a four point loss to the lowly Lions last week, which has really damaged their finals hopes. All is not lost, however, with the 6th placed Waratahs playing the 7th placed Bulls this week, so a win on Friday could see the Highlanders leapfrog one of these sides. The Force came close to upsetting the Hurricanes last week, and while they haven’t been winning of late, they have been competitive. On paper you would expect the Highlanders to win here, but they’ve started to wobble of late. I would back the Force (+9.5) in a line bet.
Rebels (23) vs. Stormers (52)
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 2 for Rebels, 13 for Stormers
The Rebels are back from a bruising tour of South Africa, and will have appreciated the bye last week to recuperate. Another possible loss looms large, however, as they have not been competitive against the South African sides. The Stormers will be resting key players, as they have one eye on the Bulls fixture next round. Lock Andries Bekker, hooker Deon Fourie and flyhalf Peter Grant will be sidelined. The Stormers win over the Brumbies last week was ugly, and I think the Stormers will be happy to win ugly again in Melbourne. I expect a Stormers victory, but I would back the Rebels (+15) in a line bet.
Saturday – June 4
Bulls (45) vs. Waratahs (46)
3:10 AM AEST
Expert tips: 12 for Bulls, 3 for Waratahs
This fixture is crucial, with Waratahs currently in the final wildcard spot and only a point between them and the rising Bulls. The Waratahs lost 26-21 against the Sharks in Durban last week, and I expect a similar scoreline as they take on a similar strength side. As with the Waratahs fixture last week, I think the bookmakers have got the odds spot on, so I will sit this one out.
Hurricanes (34) vs. Lions (23)
3:30 PM AEST
Expert tips: 11 for Hurricanes, 4 for Lions
The Hurricanes have been installed as the clear favourites, but they will be wary of the Lions squad that enjoyed an upset win over the Highlanders last week. Realistically, both teams only have pride to play for, with both sides sitting bottom of their respective conferences. The Hurricanes have been inconsistent this season, and would have felt the 34-28 win over the Force last week was unnecessarily close for comfort. I would back the Lions (+12.5) in a line bet.
Blues (54) vs. Chiefs (34)
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 14 for Blues, 1 for Chiefs
This is the first fixture of the round that sees two compatriot sides go head to head. The Blues are well on track for finals rugby, but will be keen to win and maintain a stranglehold on the first place position in the New Zealand conference. The Chiefs only have a mathematical chance of making the finals series, but will be keen to rain on the parade of their northern rivals. They will also be keen to avenge the 13-16 loss to the Blues in week 6. Both teams had a bye last week, so both squads should be in good shape. I expect a Blues win, but the Chiefs will lift their form for this fixture. Backing the Blues to win by 1-12 at 2.65 odds looks good value.
Reds (58) vs. Brumbies (24)
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 14 for Reds, 1 for Brumbies
What a turnaround from a number of years ago. Reds are now the dominant Australian side, with the Brumbies fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in this competition. The Reds game against the Crusaders last week was fantastic, with many observers likening it to a Test match. The Brumbies woes continued last round with an ugly 16-3 loss at home to the Stormers. The franchise is on track to post a financial loss this season, and I expect more bad news for them this weekend. Despite the low odds, I would back the Reds in a head to head bet.
Sunday – June 5
Cheetahs (34) vs. Sharks 47()
1:05 AM AEST
Expert tips: 8 for Cheetahs, 7 for Sharks
The Cheetahs resurgence took a step back last week, with a 32-21 loss against the Bulls. They have been playing some good rugby in the latter half of the season, so they’re no longer the push overs they were earlier. The Sharks won the reverse fixture 24-9 in week 1, but I expect a closer result this week, especially with the Cheetahs at home. Interestingly, this is the most even fixture of the round, according to bookmakers, with 1.70 on the Sharks as favourites. The Sharks’ wildcard place is anything but secured, so I’m sure they will be fully focused here. I’m inclined to take the 1.70 odds, so I would back the Sharks in a head to head bet.